My Most Painful Interviews

Nothing wastes a managers time quite like a bad interview.  In fact, all interviews are a waste of time in my opinion until the candidate proves they have value and worth.  Prior to the interview starting you typically have a feeling in your gut that tells you if the candidate will be a waste of time or if you will love them.  Few interviews start with the manager being really excited to spend thirty to sixty minutes with a stranger they know nothing about.  If any manager tells you they love interviews then they are lying, or psychotic.  The only time a manager loves an interview is if they already know they want the candidate but then it becomes recruitment as opposed to a formal or cold interview.

Recruitment is a different story and I’ve posted before about that process.  When you reach out to someone and recruit them to work for you it becomes a totally different mindset.  Recruitment is about singling out a candidate and proving all the great reasons they should work for your company.  It becomes a sales job as opposed to a Q&A.  Good candidates who are recruited don’t need to be interviewed, they need to be sold on the fact that you are the best person for them to work for and that the company is the best for their career.

While I’ve been fortunate to interview some amazing people and hire some great candidates over the years, I’ve also had some interviews that have stuck out in my mind as being odd, painful, and left me wondering who ever hired these people in the first place.  It typically confirms my theory that the country should have a 10% unemployment rate because 10% of the country is un-employable.  However, that is another topic for another day.

Here are a few of my most painful interviews:

The Over-Excited Candidate 

While I can appreciate someone’s excitement to go to work for a well known brand or company, gushing from the minute you walk in the door to the minute you leave is not a good idea.  Just like any good relationship that starts across a bar setting on a Friday night, you want to show signs that your interested but not that you are going to move in over the weekend.

From the second I met this candidate in the lobby to about four minutes in when I decided that I would absolutely never hire this individual they spent the whole time telling me how excited they were just to be in my building.  Their excitement level was cute at first but after they continued to gush about how much time they have spent following my brand and how much their family loves it, I found myself bored of smiling and being excited for her.  Being excited about your first trip to Disneyland is great, but even after eight hours in the park its time to put the excitement aside and face that three hour line for Splash Mountain head on.

The worst part about the over-excited candidate was the fact that most of the details she had researched about my company was wrong.  She pulled some random facts and figures off the internet that were false, she quoted something that was actually for my competitor and she continually called us by the wrong tagline and name.  While I can appreciate her desire to do some research ahead of time, I was completely turned off by the fact that none of it was true.

Needless to say the over-excited candidate was in and out of the building rather quickly and while I explained to her on the way out that we didn’t have a fit for her, her joy and excitement level wasn’t to be contained as she said she would continue to be a loyal follower of our business.  Thanks over-excited candidate, hopefully you found somewhere a little less exciting to interview next.

The Head Cold & The Bluetooth

If your not a fan of a stranger’s germs then you will understand my lack of interest in this next candidate.  While I can appreciate the fact that this candidate wanted to keep her interview time and not miss out on a potential job opportunity, I can’t appreciate that she hacked up a lung while sitting across the table and proceeded to tell me that the hand I just shook was full of that little green guy from the Mucinex commercial.  In fact she was so sick that she actually got a bottle of Purell out to lather up before shaking my hand again on the way out the door.  If she had enough common sense to understand that I wouldn’t want to shake her hand due to sickness then I would have rather she call me ahead of time and tell me she was too sick to interview and we could reschedule.

In addition to the hacking of the lungs, about twenty five minutes into the interview she reached up to her right ear and finally pulled off the light blinking Bluetooth that she had proceeded to wear the entire interview.  If she was fortunate enough to be recording it then she could go back later and hear herself cough over my lack of interest in her background. I’m not sure if she was so nervous that she had forgotten to remove it or if she always walks into a room dressed as a spy for MI6.

Needless to say I was unimpressed with the Bluetooth and equally turned off by the fact that this candidate didn’t have the decency to stay home and not infect my entire office.  If she was going to appear in front of me for an interview this way then what effect would her lack of self awareness have on any future customers?  I wasn’t about to find out and in less than thirty minutes we parted ways only for me to find myself back in that conference room with a big bottle of Lysol and a gallon of hand sanitizer.

The Ratings Scale 

Working with recruiters can be very hit or miss, in fact it is probably more of a 90/10 miss to hit ratio.  I will say that I’ve hired some amazing candidates that were sent to me by a recruiter.  In fact one of my best hires started off with a recruitment agency so they are not all a waste of time, but the majority of them are.

This candidate happened to be one that was a waste of time and as the interview continued on my tolerance for her self-absorbed, lack of knowledge of my product and her continual money talk proved to me that she wasn’t going to be a fit with my staff.  When she continually talked about how amazing she was without any real proof to back it up my politically correctness meter started to drop and I became very honest.

She asked me, “How am I doing in this interview? On a scale of 1 to 10 with 10 being the best?” I said, “honestly, about a five.”  I then of course had to back it up as I was rather surprised myself that I chose to be that brutally honest with someone I had known for less than a half hour.  I was thrilled that I had chosen to not be politically correct.  But the truth was this candidate wasn’t doing anything to excite me and I figured if she was bold enough to ask then she was thick skinned enough to hear the truth, and the truth was I had no interest!

It’s safe to say the interview ended minutes, no seconds after that and I’m pretty sure we’re not LinkedIn connections at this point in time.

The Seven Minute Ramble

One of my first interviews as a manager was with an out of market candidate on the phone.  This candidate has been referred to me by someone I trusted but it had been years since they had worked in any capacity together so they wouldn’t exactly put their neck on the line for them but they did think enough about them to suggest an interview.

The phone call started out rather easy with simple introductions, and then went to hell from there.  I asked a simple question, something to the tune of, “tell me about your stint at XYZ company” and what I got was a seven minute ramble.  This guy actually talked to seven straight minutes without stopping.  Have you ever spoke for seven straight minutes without stopping?  Do you have any idea how much you have to say or how long you have to talk to go seven minutes without stopping in a conversation?

You may be asking yourself, “How did he know that he rambled for seven minutes?”  Because that is the exact length of time that it takes for me to fall asleep if I lose interest and I started snoring at about the seven minute mark! No, the truth is I happened to look at the clock but I couldn’t believe we had passed the five and six minute mark before his story was finally over.

You may also be asking, “maybe he needed seven minutes to tell this story,” but the truth is he didn’t.  It was a ramble, it was worse than a drunk best man’s toast at a wedding and it caused me to completely tune out and end the interview a few minutes later.  If he can ramble like that in an interview then he can ramble in front of my clients, thus boring the hell out of them and ultimately costing me money.  Self awareness is a trait that few people have and this guy didn’t have a lick of it.

The Beggar

There is nothing more pathetic than a grown man begging for something.  Outside of a homeless person asking for change, no adult male should ever beg.  If you cant get what you want by making a solid argument or point for it then it’s time to move on.  This candidate didn’t have any clue.

Once again it was a recruiter that sent me this gem and after a few minutes into the interview it was apparent that he wouldn’t be a fit for our company both with his background and style.  He was used to selling a product that took a “whatever it takes approach” to close a deal, and then he would move on.  I needed someone who could nurture relationships and grow accounts based on the fact that could both sell and manage a client.

The entire interview was spent with this individual answering questions as if he was on a game show.  I would ask the question and he would answer with this look in his eye as if he was unsure he would win $500 for his answer or not.  It was the same way I would imagine myself on Jeopardy, just hoping that Alex would tell me my answer was accurate!

It became apparent this wasn’t going to work.  At the end of the interview I thanked him for his time but politely said, “this isn’t going to work, and here is why.”  Then it went sideways.  The candidate actually put both his hands together and repeatedly said, “please, please give me a chance, I promise I’ll be great,” and this went on for a few more minutes.  I was so shocked and stunned that I couldn’t believe he would actually beg me.  As If somewhere along the line that had worked before and maybe this was the way he had been hired at his current company.

It wasn’t the way I was going to hire him and I stood up and ushered him out.

These are just a few of the most painful interviews I have conducted.  There are dozens more and I’ll continue to update and add as time goes on. The best interviews are sitting in my office right now and I have no recollection of their interviews other than they were great and I couldn’t wait to put an offer together and hire them!


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